Thursday, 28 June 2012

Keep taking the tablets

In a fit of unashamed geekishness, I ordered my first tablet last night.

It isn't, as I had been planning*, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 but in fact the newly announced Google Nexus 7.

And can you blame me? For the price of an 8GB Tab 2, I can get a 16GB Nexus 7 which is far higher spec'd and comes with Google Play credit and (the less exciting) Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

I'm really excited and, when it arrives in 2 or 3 weeks time, plan to publish my own review of the device right here on my blog. Exciting huh??

So that's it for now. If you want to know more about the exact spec I'd recommend Googling Nexus 7 and seeing what those who were at Google I/O (and got one early) have to say. Also take a look at some of the more measured reviews. If you want my opinoin, a good starting point for gauging the review's quality would be how long they can wait before comparing it to an iPad.

"Not long" is generally the answer to that one...

(*I must point out that this is actually my birthday present from various people to which my darling wife has been getting them to contribute. Thank you all and especially her for (i) organising it and (ii) allowing me to order the Nexus 7 in childish excitement).

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Are Apps as relevant to tablets?

I'm hoping that the birthday fairy is going to be kind to me next month and bring me my first tablet. I'm very excited at the prospect but it's got me thinking about the role that apps have to play on such devices. (and as I come to write now I don't know whether apps should be capitalised, put in inverted commas or what. I'll stick with lowercase I think).

Anyway, there are obviously stock apps without which the device would be useless. A web browser, a media player and a camera spring immediately to mind. Then there are places where a specifically designed app will probably prove useful. Games are an obvious one. Also any app which leverages specific elements of the hardware such as GPS tracking.

But beyond that, I wonder whether I'll use apps over the browser? Looking at my smartphone the likes of Facebook, IMDB, Train Times, GMail, Twitter, eBay, Amazon etc etc etc all have perfectly functional websites which are often far better than their apps - I tend to think that the apps just exist because a screen size of 4 inches isn't conducive to using most websites. But when you get that up to the 7" or more mark with a minimum resolution of 1024 x 600, I think a lot of websites will become useable.

I suppose I'll just have to wait, see and report back. And if I don't get a tablet, I'll fit a magnifying glass to my phone and pretend.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

IT departments are not police

Sorry folks, it's another Kelv-Rant(TM)!

This post's rant is brought to you courtesy of my less than co-operative IT colleagues around the world. You guys know who you are, and you should be ashamed of yourselves!

So, here it is in a nutshell. I'm sick to the back teeth of hearing from people (in a work context) "We can't engage properly with social media because we can't get on Facebook."

At a slightly expanded level, I've spent the last 5 years listening to variations on a theme of "Organisation X can't get a Facbook page set up for their museum because their IT department blocks access to Facebook". Today, I sat listening to a person who works for a council run museum who told us that it took her 3 months to get access to Facebook, despite it being explicitly mentioned in her job description.

This kind of thing really pisses me off. Having worked in I.T. for the last 11 years with various organisations, I feel that I'm in a fairly good position to give an opinion on the practices of IT departments and here's what I think on this matter:

There is absolutely no legitimate reason whatsoever to block access to social networking sites at an organisation wide level. 

And here are some of the many reasons why...

Organisational policies do not require pre-enforcement

Okay, so let's start by assuming that your organisation has decided that people should not access social networking sites from within the corporate network. If that's the case, then there should be a policy to this effect with clearly stated boundaries and disciplinary procedures should these boundaries be breached. Once these policies are in place, there is no call for a block on the sites in the same way that an organisational policy on no alcohol in the workplace does not require everyone's bags to be searched when they arrive at work.

If it's not organisational policy, then you have no right to block it

This should be obvious really but I'm going to cover it anyway. Just because you CAN block something, doesn't mean you should. Even - and this is important folks - even if your firewall comes pre-configured to block these sites.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you should turn off every default rule on your firewall. I happen to believe, for instance, that blocking certain sites is a good idea, but not with the primary objective of restricting access. For instance, a rule blocking porn should not be there to STOP people looking at porn (regardless of whether you have a policy stating that they shouldn't) but to help protect people from seeing things that might inadvertently offend them.

It shouldn't be organisational policy because YOU say so

I have seen far too many organisation wide policies come into effect because the IT department says that it must be so. Now, there's nothing wrong with introducing policies that support the objectives of the IT department. But the objectives of the IT department should be to support the organisation, not to make the IT department's job easier or give it licence to do whatever it wants.

I operate on a very simple principle for any and all IT projects - that they should be doing better things, or doing things better. If your project (or reasoning for doing something) doesn't fit either of these then you should abandon it (if you need an example, see almost any project involving AR right now.)

You should be able to trust your staff

And this is the most important one. If you (and here I'm talking to the organisation as a whole) can't trust your staff to follow policy then you should either fire them or be prepared to go through your own disciplinary procedure when they breach that policy. Do not ask your IT department to act as a crime prevention unit of a corporate police force; they've got enough on their plates keeping all of your system up and running.

Which, by the way, you are NEVER grateful for.

Monday, 4 June 2012

"My SharePoint Sites" missing from Office Save As dialog box

So, another dry and technical work related post today. Again, it's as much for my benefit as anyone else's and I may well have more to say about it later as I come across further problems.

I've been wrestling for some time with SharePoint integration in Office. In my particular set up I'm talking about Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS2007) and Office Pro Plus 2007. The issue was that for some people the "My SharePoint Sites" option wasn't showing up in their Save or Save As dialog box from within Word, Excel etc.

As it turns out, there's all kinds of problems that can affect this and pinpointing it can take ages so here's some things you can try.

Make sure the user has a My Site.

If they don't have a My Site, it just doesn't work.

Make sure the user has explicit permissions for every site

This caught me out because I'd added an existing Active Directory group to the Members group for the site and couldn't work out why it wasn't appearing under My SharePoint Sites. They have to explicitly be in the Members Group. Annoying, but that's it.

It doesn't work if they're just an Owner either - they have to be Members.

Try re-populating the My SharePoint Sites folder

This can be a tricky one. To the best of my understanding, the folder checks for membership once a day. If you want to force this you need to delete the registry key:


And then relaunch an Office App to repopulate it. However, I found that the registry key can be in different places. If it's not there try looking in..


The AppDataLow variant is for Windows 7 and the 14.0 is if you've got anything from the Office 2010 suite installed. Which leads me on to...

Have you got anything other than Office 2007 installed?

Which is the one that's just caught me out and prompted me to write this post! On some of my machines I've got Project 2010 along with Office 2007. It's not a happy situation with SharePoint at all, but one I'm having to deal with just now. In fact I've had problems in the past with InfoPath 2007 and Project 2010 conflicting, the conclusion to which was pretty much just living with it.

Anyway, in this particular scenario, the LinkPublishingTimestamp and the PersonalSiteURL values were being created under the 14.0 keys rather than 12.0 meaning that office just wasn't seeing anything. To fix it I exported the Portal registry key to my desktop, edited it in Notepad to change the values from 14.0 to 12.0 and then reimported to create the new 12.0 keys. After this, the functionality started working immediately.

A large portion of the credit for eventually fixing this has to go to Paul Liebrand's Weblog for its various posts on My SharePoint Sites which have aided me considerably.